Meet Rhode Island 500 Startups Startup: Waigo Translate (Translate Abroad)


Here at nibletz we’ve been fortunate enough to be chosen as the first test site for Markerly, our good friend Sarah Ware’s DC based publisher tools startup, and member of the just announced, 5th class at 500 startups. Through this great relationship we’ve got an awesome tool on the site, in Markerly, and exclusive early access to some of their cohorts.

Earlier this morning as the embargo lifted on this years 500 startups class, we brought you an interview with Australian startup Kickfolio. We also brought you an interview with Boston startup Privy.

Now we turn our sites again to the north east part of the country and Rhode Island startup Waigo Translate.

Waigo Translate is one of those uniquely cool startups that Dave McClure, Paul Singh and the entire 500 startups organization prides themselves on.

Waigo Translate is an app that turns your iPhone camera into a translation device. Waigo Translate current works with Chinese, Japanese and Korean, with more languages on the way. Yes that means you could use your phone to translate the written lyrics to Gangnam Style.

We got a chance to talk with Waigo Translate’s Marketing Director, Rob Sanchez. Check out the interview below.

What is Waigo Translate?

At Translate Abroad, we are bridging the language barrier. We created an iOS app called Waigo that lets you instantly read foreign languages. All you have to do is download and open the app and hover your camera over Chinese, Japanese, and Korean text to see instant translations. It works all offline and the app is only 8mb small. We are adding multi-line translation and support for other languages very soon.

Here is a demo video:

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds

The founders are Ryan Rogowski (CEO), Kevin Clark, and Huan-Yu Wu. The trio went through the Betaspring Accelerator in the Summer of ’11 where they began to develop this very intense and unique algorithm. Ryan and Huan-Yu are both fluent in Chinese. All three are mobile and image processing nerds who are able to blast out algorithms that outperform any like it’s kind. Rob Sanchez recently joined as Marketing Director after he met the team while working on a separate startup during the Betaspring Accelerator. The team is now pushing along with a nicely polished and functional product as part of the 500 Startups Accelerator.

Where are you based?

The company is primarily based in Mountain View, CA but holds an office in Providence, RI.

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

The team is truly an accelerator-loving team. We’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of two accelerators in our company’s lifetime. Through this, we’ve gotten a chance to meet some of the best founders, mentors, and investors in the business. We understand that when you are working at a startup, your biggest advantage is to be a part of a community and to help grow that community by giving back.

What problem does your startup solve?

We are bridging the language barrier. Currently, traveling to other countries and meeting other cultures is very difficult. It takes a lot of time and commitment to learn a different language, especially a complex one like Chinese. Our software gives you new eyes while you are abroad, allowing you to experience the trip and countries as the natives do.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

Fundraising. A lot of people try to do a startup. What most people don’t realize is the time and dedication it takes to get one off the ground. We have had to bootstrap for a good portion of our lifecycle. It’s very hard and it can get your morale down. The only way to overcome it is to fully believe that what you are building actually solves a real problem for people and that your solution is powerful. If you can honestly say that, then the next step is to be a part of a community who will help you along the way.

Who are your mentors and role models?

We have been through two accelerator programs now and therefore have met a number of mentors. All of them have been great, but sometimes you have to filter who is going to be the most help and listen to what they are actually saying. Our role models have been the people who run the accelerators that we were in: Allan Tear, Owen Johnson and Dave McClure. While their time is occasionally sparse, they will ultimately do anything for you as long as they know you need it.

Whats one thing the world doesn’t know about you or your startup?

Probably that this amazing technology actually exists. We suspect that’s the case for many companies. Only recently have we made a big push to get out and tell people. A lot of founders undervalue the customer development process as they are too focused on building a product. We want people to know that there is a way to magically make sense out of foreign languages and cultures without any effort on their part.

What’s next for Waigo Translate?

Next we are expanding languages. Currently the app works best on Chinese but we are expanding to Korean and Japanese very soon. In addition, we will do the converse of translating Asian languages to English for all of the travelers coming from Asia. Furthermore, we are improving the experience by adding multi-line translation and general context so that you can more easily navigate foreign territory. We are doing all of this while also closing our funding round.


Find out more about Waigo Translate Here

Here are more 500 Startups at

We hope to see you here!


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